While the orange-tipped fingernails of dawn scratch moon and starscape from the sky, leaving streaky wounds of dark and light, she begins her morning rituals.

The river flows cold and fast. She sits on a fallen tree; bench for her clothes and toweling. Naked, she enters the waters, pushing past the bank-side clumps of water herbs, reeds, and tall grasses.

Immersing herself, she sluices off the night; splashing waters of the day against her bare cold-dimpled skin.

Raises cupped hands upwards, encanting in eld: “I am earth, I am water, I am sky.” She opens her fingers slightly, allowing water droplets to rejoin the river’s rush towards the sea.

Thus cleansed, and reaffirmed, she towels herself dry and dresses. She sparks a small camp fire to heat her meadow tea left to cold-steep overnight. She unwraps her last oaten cake, grown stale but still fair provender.

Today, she will make Stoddard’s, last inn before the road begins the traverse through dune grass and corpse bush heath to cliffs’ edge. Here, she can sleep under roof, not stars. Soak long in steamy lavender, thyme and mint-scented water. Drink dark, nut-brown ale; dine on sweet and savory hand pies. She will hear the rising rumbles of voices, not the dipping whisper of pines. Atune to laughter not the raucous calls of ravens and jays.

Her pair of sea-tang ponies, small, muscular horses with wild tangles of mane and tail, seem to already sense salt spray upon the air. Homeward bound, they long to feel sand, not hard-pack or cobbles beneath their hooves. To run through tidal pools; gulls wheeling overhead. To taste sea-tang on the wind, generator of their name.

Some travelers follow the sun or moon like lanterns to light their journey. She does the opposite; heading easterly, the sun warming her back. Yet, it guides her in the morning, always rising above the darkened sea; it’s sea-diamond trail spreading to the far horizon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is a fragment – something that is part of the various head story cycles that occupy my mind. Placing the same characters in different circumstances, shifting plots and morphing threads. Tangential, I suppose, to the Friday Music prompt: Del Shannon’s “Keep Searchin’/Follow the Sun” But, our Friday music maestro invites us to riff; and my scrawl/scrawling tends to bend rules, riffing along.

BTW, and this is the historian in me coming out. As to the challenge: “Or if you would like to explain that phrase to “Go West young man. . . .” Well, from a little internet research (and some knowledge of American history): “Go West young man” was a phrase attributed to Horace Greely, a newspaper editor, publisher, and supporter of American westward expansion and believer in the doctrine of manifest destiny. Greely supposedly wrote and printed in his newspaper the New York Daily Tribune, July 13, 1865:

“Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.”

Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, in his autobiography, states Greely used “go west, young man” in a discussion prior to sending him west to report on agriculture in Illinois. Some suggest Greely spent the rest of his life denying he had every uttered “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.”

Another candidate for authorship is John LB Soule. Born (1815) in Freeport, Maine he like many of his contemporaries left Maine and the East for fresh opportunities in the west. And, like Greely, he became a newspaper editor and publisher. Through another series of unsubstantiated claims, he is credited with having uttered the famous phrase.

Whoever penned those words, the phrase seemed to sum up so much of America’s psyche, vision, and aspirations in the 1830s to 1860. And, a way to bring together the wounded country after the Civil War. A physical, solid manifestation of Manifest Destiny, the ideology that posited America was “destined by God: to expand, spreading it’s brand of democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent. With little or no regard or respect for the Native Americans (and Hispanics) already occupying “the empty West.”

So “go west,” like other phrases (Marie Antionette and “let them eat cake”*) are more of myth and “fake news” than reality. That doesn’t stop such phrases, however, from becoming part of our lexicon.

sources consulted:

Go West, young man,” Wikipedia

Horace Greely,” Wikipedia

J.LB. Soule,” Wikipedia

“Go West Young Man: The Mystery Behind the Famous Phrase,” Hoosier State Chronicles

“Manifest Destiny,” History.com

feature image: sara vaccari @ pixabay.com

*There are no written or eye witness accounts that Marie-Antoinette said, in response to being told the peasants had no bread and were starving, “Let them eat cake.”